Jean-Luc Godard’s review of the film (and Artists and Models) from the August-September 1956 issue of Cahiers du Cinéma:
The grotesque is an anything but easy genre. It requires sensitivity rather than intelligence, so many of the smartest directors come to grief with it. No chance of cheating here, of escaping into the ivory tower of the misunderstood…
The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, in the style of Voltaire’s Candide or Hitchcock’s Rich and Strange, recounts the misadventures of a couple of idiots who are brought by too much love to domestic squabble and then to the point of break-up. Imagine Bécassine and the silliest boy you can think of trying to prove they love each other and only succeeding in hating each other. Happiness is not gay, says Max Ophuls; because gaiety is the opposite of happiness, caps Tashlin. Artists and Models does nothing to give him the lie. No film could be more devastating, more bitter in its humor, more brackish, with the richness of the invention constantly aggravated by the poverty of the situations, with the uneasy spectator at first forcing an unwilling laugh, then feeling ashamed, laughing again mechanically, seized in a pitiless mesh of imbecilities, and ending by roaring with laughter because it isn’t funny at all. It is, in other words, an acme of stupidity, but an acme in the same way as Bouvard et Pécuchet.
But to get back to our starting-point. With Tashlin there is no starting-point, and this is precisely his originality. Only the point of arrival matters, a scene at the very limits of absurdity in the ferociously eccentric world of the Pim, Pam, Poum of our childhood.
It is easy to see that Tashlin fondly remembers the Lubitsch of Cluny Brown and To Be or Not To Be. American comedy is dead? So be it.
Long live American comedy.
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